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And shame it is, if a preest take keep,44
A (dirty] shepherde and a clene sheep.
Wel oghte a preest ensample for to yive,
By his clennesse, how that his sheep shold live.
He sette nat his benefice to hyre,
And leet his sheep encombrèd in the myre,
And ran to London, un-to seynt Poules,
To seken him a chaunterie for soules,
Or with a bretherhed to been withholde;,
But dwelte at hoom, and kepte wel his folde,
So that the wolf ne made it nat miscarie;
He was a shepherde and no mercenarie.
And though he holy were, and vertuous,
He was to sinful man nat despitous, 45
Ne of his speche daungerous 48 ne digne,47
But in teching discreet and benigne.
To drawen folk to heven by fairnesse
By good ensample, this was his bisynesse:
But it were any persone obstinat,
What so he were, of heigh or lowe estat,
Him wolde he snibben sharply for the nones.
A bettre preest, I trowe that nowher non is.
He wayted after no pompe and reverence,
Ne makèd him a spycèd * conscience,
But Cristes lore, and his apostles twelve,
He taughte, but first he folwèd it him-selve.


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THER was in Asie, in a gret citee, Amonges Cristen folk a Iewerye, Sustened by a lord of that contree, For foule usure, and lucre of vilanye, Hateful to Crist, and to his compagnye: And thurgh the strete men mighten ride or wende For it was free, and open at eyther ende. 5 contemptuous. 46 overbearing. 47 baughty. 48 over fine. A litel scole of Cristen folk ther stood Doun at the ferther ende, in which ther were Children an heep, y-comen of Cristen blood, That lernèd in that scole yeer by yere, Swiche manere doctrine as men used there: This is to seyn, to singen and to rede, As smale children doon in hir childhede.

4 heed

Among thise children was a widwes sone, A litel clergeon, seven yeer of age, That day by day to scole was his wone, And eek also, wheras he saugh th’image Of Cristes moder, had he in usage, As him was taught, to knele adoun, and seye, His Ave Marie, as he goth by the weye.

Thus hath this widwe hir litel sone y-taught Our blisful Lady, Cristes moder dere, To worship ay, and he forgat it naught: For sely childe wol alday sone lere. But ay, whan I remembre on this matere, Seint Nicholas stant ever in my presence, For he so yong to Crist did reverence.

This litel child his litel book lerninge, As he sate in the scole at his primer, He “Alma redemptoris" herde singe, As children lernèd hir antiphoner: And, as he dorste, he drough him ner and ner, And herkned ay the wordes and the note, Til he the firste vers coude al by rote.

Noght wiste he what this latin was to saye, For he so yong and tendre was of age; But on a day his felaw gan he preye Texpounden him this song in his langage, Or telle him why this song was in usage: This preyde he him to construe and declare, Ful ofte tyme upon his knees bare.

His felaw, which that elder was than he, Answerde him thus: “This song, I have herd seye, Was makèd of our blisful Lady fre, Hir to salue, and eek hir for to preye To ben our help, and socour whan we deye. I can no more expound in this matere: I lerne song, I can but smal grammere."

"And is this song makèd in reverence Of Cristes moder?” said this Innocent. “Now certes I wol do my diligence To conne it all or Cristemasse be went, Though that I for my primer shal be shent, And shall be beten thryes in an houre, I wol it conne, our Ladie for to honoure.”

His felaw taughte him homward prively
Fro day to day, til he coude it by rote,
And than he song it wel and boldely
Fro word to word according with the note:
Twyes a day it passèd thurgh his throte,
To scoleward and homeward whan he wente
On Cristes moder set was his entente.

As I have seyd, thurghout the lewerye
This litel child, as he cam to and fro,
Ful merily than wold he singe, and crye
O Alma redemptoris " ever-mo:
The swetnes hath his herte percèd so
Of Cristes moder, that to hire to preye
He cannot stint of singing by the weye.

Our firste foo, the serpent Sathanas,
That hath in Iewes herte his waspes nest,
Up swal and seid, “O Ebraik peple, alas!
Is this to yow a thing that is honest,
That swich a boy shal walken as him lest
In your despyt, and singe of swich sentence,
Which is agayn your lawes reverence?"

1 scolded.

Fro thennes forth the Iewes han conspyrèd
This Innocent out of this world to chace:
An homicyde there-to han they hyrèd,
That in an aley had a privee place,
And as the child gan forthby for to pace,
This cursèd Iew him hent, and heeld him faste
And kitte his throte, and in a pit him caste.

I say that in a wardrobe they him threwe,
Wher as thise Iewes purgen hir entraille.
O cursèd folk, of Herodes alle newe,
What may your yvil entente you availle?
Mordre wol out, certein it wol not faille.
And namely ther th' honour of God shal sprede:
The blood out cryeth on your cursèd dede.

“O martyr, souded in virginitee! Now mayst thou singen, and folwen ever in on The White Lamb celestial,” quod she, “Of which the gret Evangelist, Seint John In Pathmos wrote, which sayth that they that goon Beforn this Lamb, and singe a song al newe, That never fleshly woman they ne knewe.”

This poure widwe awaiteth al that night
After hir litel childe, and he cam noght:
For which, as sone as it was dayes light,
With face pale of drede and bisy thoght,
She hath at scole and elleswher him soght,
Til finally she gan so fer espye
That he last seyn was in the Iewerye.

With modres pitee in hir brest enclosed
She gooth, as she were half out of hir mynde,
To every place wher she hath supposèd
By lyklihede hir litel child to fynde:
And ever on Cristes moder meke and kynde
She cryde, and at the laste thus she wroughte,
Among the cursèd Iewes she him soughte.

2 seized.

She freyneth and she preyeth pitously
To every lew that dwelte in thilke place,
To telle hir, if hir child wente ought for-by.
They seyde, “Nay”; but Iesu, of his grace,
Yaf in hir thought, inwith a litel space,
That in that place after hir sone she cryde,
Wher he was casten in a pit besyde.

O grete God, that parformest thy laude
By mouth of Innocentz, lo heer thy myght!
This gemme of chastitee, this Emeraude,
And eek of martirdom the Rubie bright,
Ther he with throte y-korven lay upryght,
He “Alma redemptorisgan to singe
So loude, that all the place gan to ringe.

The Cristen folk that thurgh the strete wente, In coomen, for to wondre upon this thing: And hastily they for the Provost sente. He cam anon withouten tarying, And herieth Crist, that is of heven king, And eek his moder, honour of mankynd, And after that the Iewes let he bynde.

This child with pitous lamentacioun Up-taken was, singing his song alway: And with honour and gret processioun, They carien him unto the next abbay. His moder swowning by the bere lay; Unnethe might the peple that was there This newe Rachel bringe fro his bere.

With torment and with shamful deth eche on This Provost doth thise Iewes for to sterve, That of this morder wiste, and that anon; He nolde no swiche cursednesse observe: Yvil shal he have, that yvil wol deserve. Therfor with wilde hors he dide hem drawe, . And after that he heng hem by the lawe.

.3 praise.

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